Friday, February 7, 2014

Law student commonplace book

This is one of my favorite new acquisitions: a law student's notebook in the form of a commonplace book from around 1690.  Commonplacing was a typical method of learning the law in England and in the American colonies and early United States.  A student would follow the alphabetical arrangement of topics from an existing abridgement such as Brook's.  A usual starting point would be abatement, and the student would provide brief descriptions of important cases on the topic; he would continue through the alphabet (if industrious) and finish with something like wards, warranties, or writs.  About a third of the leaves in this commonplace are filled out, some quite copiously done; others, like the entry for "judges", are completely blank. 

The student who compiled this notebook was Thomas Hanbury, who studied law in England around 1690 during the reign of William and Mary.  As I mentioned during a recent visit to Professor Mary Bilder's American Legal History class, his beautifully done notes, bound in vellum, have survived much better than modern students' flash drives or vinyl binders likely will! 

The photo above is from Hanbury's entries under "Warranties." More photos will be up on our Facebook page.  Much of the information included here is from a thorough description written by Michael von der Linn at The Lawbook Exchange. 

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